Staghorn Fern: How to Care for & Mount Your Platycerium

Staghorn Fern Guide: How to Care for a Platycerium Plant

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Few houseplants are as interesting or genuinely easy to care for as the staghorn fern. This unique houseplant is both art and greenery, thanks to its flexible care requirements. Whether you’re ready to get started or have a whole house full of thriving staghorn ferns, you’re in the right place. We’ve gathered up the best way to care for, propagate, mount and display your staghorn ferns.

Staghorn Fern Details

Platycerium spp.

AKA elkhorn fern, antler fern, antelope ear, corne d’élan, Geweih-Far, Gewöhnlicher
Ease of care: Easy
Light: 4-6 hours of direct medium or bright indirect light daily
Water: Once weekly during spring and summer. Once every week and a half during winter. Submerge the entire root system.
Temperature: 60 to 80 degrees is ideal all year, no lower than 55 degrees in winter.
Height: Up to 2 or 3 feet tall
Growth rate: The speed of growth varies widely depending on the species and environment. Some species grow up to between 4 and 6 feet long within 10 or more years.
Pest: Minor host of corm scab, aka gladiolus scab
Disease: Not prone to any particular disease
Toxicity: Non-toxic to both animals and humans

Benefits

The first and most significant benefit of the staghorn fern is that the plant’s lush green foliage helps to purify your home’s air.

Secondly, these home-friendly ferns grow vertically. That means they not only take up less space than other similar plants, but they also double as impressive wall art or do well in hanging baskets that other plants may not enjoy.

A third benefit is that they genuinely require less time to upkeep than almost any other house plant, beside cactus.

potted staghorn fern in gold geometric planter on table indoorsStaghorn Fern Care

Caring for the staghorn fern is similar to caring for air plants rather than caring for most indoor herbs and house plants. That said, staghorn fern care is quite basic once you gain an understanding of the species

Water

The first difference between caring for staghorn ferns and other house plants is that their entire rhizomes need to be soaked.

Rather than watering your fern with a watering-can, place the entire plant in a bucket, sink, or bathtub. After a few minutes of soaking the root ball, allow the fern to drip-dry, and then return it to its mount or pot.

A daily misting or spritzing of the fern’s fronds is also helpful in keeping your plant in tip-top shape. The matter of real importance is to avoid watering the plant’s roots as it will likely cause root-rot.

Light

Originating from thick rainforests where they grew on trees, staghorn ferns thrive in indirect medium light with no more than a few hours of direct sunlight each day.

Windows that aren’t flooded with light for hours on end are great sources of natural light for these ferns. Artificial lights are also an excellent alternative to actual sunlight.

Temperature

Sixty to eighty-degrees °F are the safest temperatures for these particular ferns. Again, staghorn ferns are basically jungle plants, so the best temperatures for them are comparable to the temperatures of a rainforest-like environment.

Whatever you do, don’t let the temperature drop below 55-degrees for prolonged periods (even in the winter) or your ferns will likely go into shock and die. Likewise, placing staghorn ferns in an area of your that has higher than average humidity (think bathroom or utility room), or setting up a humidifier nearby its mount or pot, also goes a long way in keeping them happy and healthy.

Soil

While staghorn ferns can easily grow in a standard potting soil, it’s not necessary to have any soil at all for this epiphytic fern. In its natural habitat, the staghorn fern grows on tree trunks, mossy rocks, and other soilless locations. See “Mounting a Staghorn Fern” below for details on the process of growing a fern without soil.

Pruning

These ferns do not need pruning. In fact, pruning staghorn ferns is one of the easiest ways to accidentally kill them.

Brown fronds are often mistaken for being expired. It is a tragic mistake to remove these fronds even if they are sagging significantly or completely laying down. Mature plants often have many such fronds, which are vital to the health and longevity of the staghorn fern.

Only when sterile fronds have detached entirely, or are only barely hanging on to the plant, should they be removed. Until then, they play the vital role of shielding the roots, soaking up excess moisture, and serving nutrients to the fern.

staghorn ferns mounted on unfinished wood planks with sphagnum moss and wire

Staghorn Fern Propagation

Propagating the staghorn fern is quite an easy task. It is most successfully accomplished with the use of either spores or side shoots.

Propagating Staghorn Ferns From Side Shoots (Pups)

To propagate staghorn ferns using pups (the common name for young plants), remove the new side shoots from the mother plant as soon as their root systems begin to develop. After separating the pups from the mother plant, you’re ready to plant them or mount them as you see fit.

Sphagnum moss and would plaques are among the most popular mounts for propagating staghorn fern from pups. That said, they also thrive in pots with straight peat moss.

Side shoots are without a doubt the quickest and surest way to multiple staghorn ferns.

Propagating Staghorn Ferns From Spores

Propagating ferns is also achievable via the use of spores. Staghorn fern spores are found on the brownish areas on the underside of their main leaves.

Spores are most available (and visible) during the fall and winter months. Removing them carefully, place them directly into propagating trays prepared with wet sphagnum moss. A bit of wet sand may be added to the top layer of moss as well.

For optimal results, place the propagation tray somewhere dark and make sure that the temperature is regulated to around 78-degrees and 80-degrees.

Eventually, new plants will appear and be ready for planting or mounting.

staghorn mounted wall art with sphagnum moss

Mount a Staghorn Fern

Mounting staghorn ferns is a simple but fun activity. Generally speaking, wood and moss are the most common materials used for mounting the ferns. Numerous other materials, such as wicker, coco and plastics, are also used with an equal amount of success.

At any rate, whether you choose to use the side of a basket or a wooden plaque for your mounted staghorn fern, there are a handful of quick and easy steps to follow:

Select a mounting platform.

Fix the mount with a wetted growing medium (in most cases, sphagnum moss).
Attach and secure the fern to the mount (using its roots, and string or wire if necessary).
Hang the mount.

Mounting a staghorn fern is that easy. Just remember to mount your fern in an area with as much warmth and humidity as possible. The level of light isn’t nearly as crucial for mounted fern as the temperature and humidity.

Varieties

There are 18 known varieties of ferns in the Platycerium genus of the Polypodiaceae polypod family, which are all commonly referred to as the staghorn fern: Platycerium andinum, Platycerium alcicorne, Platycerium bifurcatum, Platycerium coronarium, Platycerium elephantotis, Platycerium ellisii, Platycerium grande, Platycerium hillii, Platycerium holttumii, Platycerium madagascariense, Platycerium quadri dichotomum, Platycerium ridleyi, Platycerium stemaria, Platycerium superbum, Platycerium veitchii, Platycerium wallichii, Platycerium wandae and Platycerium willinckii. They are similar in appearance and behavior, but have minor superficial differences in leaf shape and size.

Staghorn ferns have two types of fronds; fertile and basal. These fronds are the single most identifying characteristic of the ferns.

The fertile fronds stick out from or hang directly from the rhizome(s), resembling elk antlers. The basal fronds, on the other hand, look like kidneys, crowns, hearts, or small shields.

Also important to note is that most common staghorn ferns have a single rhizome. However, a few species grow rhizome clusters from their root tips.

Purchasing

Live Potted Staghorn Fern Plants

This live Potted Staghorn Fern is a popular choice amongst Amazon shoppers. It comes already planted, in a 4-inch pot, watered, and ready to transfer into your favorite pot. They are also big and healthy enough to be quickly and easily mounted.

    HousePlantShop Staghorn Fern (4-Inch Pot)

Buy at Amazon
    Ferns have been used as home decor for centuries. They are valued for their green foliage and ability to thrive in dark rooms. The Staghorn is a unique broadleaf fern that doesn't resemble the classic fern look. Ferns will prefer indirect light. Keep the soil moist and not too wet. Ferns thrive under high humidity.

Much smaller plants, Baby Staghorn Ferns, are also a common choice for buying ferns online. If you plan to plant or mount more than one fern, a three-pack is worth considering. With this particular purchase, the seller also includes detailed instructions for growing.

    3 Baby Staghorn Fern Plants

Buy at Amazon
    Staghorns are epiphytic ferns that grow naturally on bark or tree branches. They have two different types of fronds. One grows outward from the base giving it its name (Staghorn) and another that cups the area where it's rooted. These are easy to grow. Keep them somewhat moist, especially if mounted. Provide bright light but no direct sun, especially at this baby stage. Keep between 55 and 85 degrees.

    Staghorn Fern in Custom Planter

Buy at TheSill.com
    Thrives in medium to bright indirect light. This plant is pet-friendly! Water every 1-2 weeks, allowing soil to dry out half way down between waterings. Increase frequency with increased light.

Mounted and Hanging Staghorn Fern Plants

Mounted staghorns, as well as Hanging Potted Ferns, are yet another popular option for purchasing online. That said, pre-mounted and pre-potted hanging ferns tend to be less popular with DIY and gardener types who like to be involved with the actual growing process of the plant.

    Staghorn Fern Mounted on 10x9 Walnut Plaque

Buy at Amazon
    Staghorn Fern is one of the more unusual house plants. It grows without its roots in soil and produces two types of fronds. Ideal temperatures are between 60 degrees and 80 degrees. It prefers bright, but indirect light. The plant you will receive is mounted with moss and growing on a walnut stained wooden wall plaque. The number of leaves and size will vary from plant to plant

    Staghorn Fern in 6.5-Inch Hanging Planter

Buy at Amazon
    Hanging plant care requires indirect light. Keep the soil slightly moist, but don't water directly into the crown as this will cause an unsightly rot in your plant. Care should be taken, particularly in winter, that the plant doesn't become too dry.

Common Questions

houseplant staghorn fern in modern white ceramic planter on table

Should I mist my Staghorn Fern plant?

Yes, you should mist your fern every now and then. Staghorn ferns do not take-in water through their roots, they absorb it through their fronds. That means they require a certain level of moisture and humidity, which misting can help with.

During the hottest months, misting once per week can be beneficial. In the winter, misting should be reduced to once per month.

How can I tell if my Staghorn Fern is healthy?

The easiest way to tell if a staghorn fern is healthy or not is by checking its color and moisture level. If it is green and dry, it’s healthy. If the plants’ growing-medium or mount is too wet, or the ferns’ fronds are moist and rotting, it’s more than likely over-watered and unhealthy.

Black spots are also a dead give-away that you have an unhealthy staghorn fern.

Brown leaves, however, are often mistaken as a sign of an unhealthy fern. This is backward thinking though as the brown fronds play a crucial role in the plants’ survival and ability to thrive by absorbing moisture, protecting the roots, and providing nutrients.

Can I revive my dried out Staghorn Fern?

Depending on how dry your staghorn fern plant is, there is a great possibility that you’ll be able to “revive” it. Staghorn ferns do best when they become completely dry between waterings.

If your fern is dried out, for too long, you may be able to bring it back to full health by using fertilizer or nutrients as well as light misting and more regular watering. Remounting may also help.

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